The controversial head of a Middle East watchdog organization delivered a searing attack on militant Islam at a campus talk last night to an impassioned but divided audience.
Like many campus events on the Middle East, Daniel Pipes' speech ignited antagonism between fierce ideological opponents. Supporters welcomed him with a standing ovation, but his opposition frequently interrupted the presentation, booing Pipes and calling him a racist.
Nonetheless, Pipes, who runs the Web site Campus Watch that tracks Middle Eastern studies in North America, sought to spread his own philosophy of action for the Middle East.
Pipes said the region has been overpowered by militant Islam, a force hostile to free speech that needs to be destroyed.
But he said achieving democracy in the Middle East would be slow and pointed to Iraq as a key example.
"I supported war against Iraq as any civilized person must," Pipes said.
For the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pipes had a simple cure: no diplomacy until all Palestinians recognize the state of Israel.
"Palestinians need to give up their foul ambition of destroying their neighbor," Pipes said to a burst of dissent from many audience members.
Pipes also took aim domestically, chastising his colleagues in Middle Eastern studies for "incompetence" and called campus Muslim students' associations bastions of militant Islam.
Aside from a lecture on the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, the audience's internal crossfire seemed to tell a story of its own.
Throughout the speech, a handful of loud commentators were escorted outside by police, and a large faction of Pro-Palestinian students made a dramatic exit toward the end of Pipes' speech.
Pipes' supporters often shouted back for those students to listen.
And those somewhere in between, the moderate Jews, Muslims and community members said they found little resonance in Pipes' words and even less of an opportunity for real discussion.
Throughout the crossfire, the event was overshadowed by the question of what constituted appropriate free speech on campus.
To Pipes' denouncers, the protest represented the precise expression of free speech.
"This is a man who has made his career by vilifying Arabs and Muslims and spreading conspiracy theories on Middle Eastern studies," said English graduate student Snehal Shingavi, the first person thrown out of speech.
But for Pipes, the audience members' outbursts only reaffirmed what he had come to preach: that universities—UC Berkeley in particular—were the most intolerant institutions in the country.
"I thought this was an institution of higher education," Pipes said.